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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

“STOLEN KISS” Part 1 By Sobhan Pramanik

(Part 1)


Sobhan Pramanik

To the lanes of College Street, Calcutta…

A clicking sound from behind tenses him up. He quickly turns around to see her walk through the door; a line of shadow diagonally splits his face. She drops her handbag at the counter and collecting the token, walks into the dim, narrow aisle guarded by high, iron shelves with books spilling from the edges. He stood there lurking in the darkness by the window, following her head moving along the shelves, as behind him, outside, evening had befallen the sky and lights flickered at the windows of distant houses. He checks at the frail looking man at the counter for a moment, turning the pages of a newspaper, wetting his thumb against a soaked sponge and then, assured that he is engaged, quickly slips into a dark corner behind a shelf. The man looks up for once and then, not bothered, goes back to reading.
From that secluded corner he observes her picking books from the mystery section. She is shifting from one book to another, reading a page or two from each and then finally stopping at what seems to look, by the cover, an Agatha Christie work. He lets out a sheepish grin and just when she is totally engrossed in reading, he takes off his shoes to not make any noise and emerges out of the dark, tiptoeing along the dusty floor towards her direction from behind.  
She feels a moist thumb at the back of her neck, caressing; and then suddenly a hard clench of a manly fist. She is about to scream but her voice fails her.
The next she feels is a tongue wetting her lips, an impenetrable darkness against her eyes and a very faint whisper, like a distant voice, speaking into her ear – Is our story any less mysterious than Agatha Christie?

There are always places in our lives, in ourselves, that we become so familiar with that it cannot be distinguished by anything but the very sense of familiarity that starts to resonate within us with a sense of purpose, every time we happen to visit those places. It is like remembering a garden by the collective smell it sends drifting through the air at night, moistened by dew that tells us about its existence and never introduces us to the various species of flowers in it, and it is with that smell that we remain attached to the garden for the length of time.
Because somewhere our life, I believe, above everything else is an effort of our soul to get comforted by one such familiarity and never know the flowers transpiring them.  

This was what seemed to draw in and out of his mind as he gazed outside of the square window, hanging his head out to the bustle of the city shimmering in dust and darkness. The streets swollen with vehicles narrows out to all possible directions as the thick evening air intoxicated with smoke stings his eyes. He dabs at them still pondering why he has to go there, every single time, to a shabby building covered in cracks with damp, dark walls housing in its third floor a further shabby bookstore and pulling out a book from the dirty shelves, stand by the window and watch the city spiral away through its cluttered self. 
The pavements below are crowded with vendors clocking the lever of a kerosene stove, beneath overlooking street lamps, as the burner comes to life, shooting a ball of blue flame to the base of greasy kettle set to boil for another round the already hard boiled tea. Iron sticks stashed with roasted pieces of chicken in varying shades of red dangle from the frontiers of several stalls shrouded in the fumes of frying oil, as behind it stands the sweaty vendor, stirring on the pan the junk, with customers hungrily waiting to get served. There are exhausted rickshaw pullers idling by the pavement after the long day of work, almost dozing off on the seat with every drag of beedis held between their pursed lips. The whir of the tram from a distance, slowly chugging along through the crowd with tiny sparks of fire, like glittering stars, light and vanish atop its antennae drawing current from the overhead wires. And then there is this incessant haranguing of students in groups at the door steps of hundreds of bookstalls along the road.

The place seem to be completely out of order for a book store to happen there. It is noisy, chaotic and nothing close to that of place where one can sit with a book of literature by those ajar windows and welcoming the bronze evening sky, feel in himself a strange enlightenment journeying the words of the author or perhaps discover a completely new perspective to life. It was nowhere close to that. Yet he had to go to the same bookstore that has nothing substantial to offer perhaps because it was the very existence of the bookstore that resonated within him with all its drab, non-exciting features, like that collective smell from the garden slowly drifting through our lives.
Suddenly his face contracts to a clicking sound. He turns around, holding the book in his grip, pressing it close tightly against his index finger held somewhere between the pages to where he has read, thus cutting the book in two distinct halves.

He noticed her walking between the rows and swiftly covered himself up behind a stacked shelf. A frail man reluctantly flipped pages of newspaper at the counter, blissfully unaware of the world around him. He waited in the darkness as she picks books from the mystery section. Ensuring that she was engrossed in the book, he took off his shoes and emerging from the darkness from behind her, started walking in her direction.
She feels a thumb caress her nape and slowly slide down her back, beneath her garment. She is then held by her neck and dwarfing her behind the very book shelf, he touches her lips with his tongue. She wants to scream but a knot seem to form in her throat. Her voice fails, her sight blanketed by darkness and a whisper then breaks into her ears. With every word spoken, her lips are sucked in and out with a wild, uncontrolled and immature passion, like a chew stick between an infant’s gums. Is. Our. Story. Any. Less. Mysterious. Than. Agatha. Christie?

The next moment he is gone and as she gathers herself up and rushes up to the window; a tall man, swaying on his legs in a hoodie jacket, is seen descending the stairs of the sagging building and vanish into the lights and noise and cacophony of the city.

She had been groped and kissed in the darkness of a shabby, dimly lit, old bookstore. A crime had just been committed. She must go and lodge a complaint with the police. But the instance she looked at herself in the blankness of her cellphone screen; at her spoiled hair and smudged lips, the colors from which has stretched, in messy lines, all the way to her jaws; she just knew that in all her life she had never been kissed this way and that for the first time ever a crime had been committed…with love.

Author - Sobhan Pramanik

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